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Newsmakers

Patrick Chan’s hat trick, Kim Campbell’s condo, Gwyneth Paltrow’s diet and Canada’s NBA takeover


 
Newsmakers

Dave Chidley/CP

It ain’t easy being a Mao

Serial laughingstock Mao Xinyu—Mao Zedong’s only grandson—made an appearance at China’s annual rubber-stamp parliament, which wrapped up this week in Beijing. The beefy fortysomething is at almost comical odds with new President Xi Jinping’s efforts to revamp the government’s reputation for bloat and indulgence. Mao, who is dyslexic and known to speak in slow, almost childlike sentences, is the People’s Liberation Army’s youngest major-general, and has advanced degrees from numerous prestigious universities. “Please take my proposal seriously,” he pleaded in Beijing after tabling a proposal to apply Mao Zedong’s strategic ideas to cyberwarfare. “I took much time in preparing it.”

Sending a message

The White House insisted on inviting Yityish Aynaw—Israel’s first black beauty queen—to a gala dinner celebrating U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to the Holy Land this week. The 21-year-old’s crowning last month marked a significant step forward for Israel. The country—founded as a refuge from anti-Semitic persecution—has long treated its Jewish Ethiopian émigrés as second-class citizens, or worse: this year, the Israeli health ministry is slated to begin an inquiry into allegations that black Falasha Jews were unwittingly injected with a contraceptive to limit their numbers.

Remember me?

She famously conceded defeat by joking, “Gee, I’m glad I didn’t sell my car.” This week, Kim Campbell made news for a lawsuit attempting to break her contract to buy a swank, $1.8-million Vancouver condo. Or in layman’s terms, “Gee, I wish I didn’t buy that condo.” The former prime minister’s lawyer is alleging the contractor at the Private Residences at Hotel Georgia delayed completion of Campbell’s unit for more than a year, and failed to properly disclose changes in the completion date (her lawyer is representing 13 others who also seek to have their deposits returned). The suit came on the heels of a B.C. Real Estate Association report announcing a 24 per cent drop in sales over last February, and an eight per cent drop in prices.

A victory wrapped in controversy, born of envy?

Athletes understand just how hard it is to become the world’s best. It’s something Canada’s Patrick Chan has done not once, not twice but, as of last week, a remarkable three times, when he took his third world figure skating title in front of a crowd in London, Ont. Still, American media could only snicker over what they deemed his “home-cooked” gold. The Chicago Sun-Times thanked “ridiculously unjustifiable judging” for the figure skating phenom’s win. To the L.A. Times, it came care of “Chanflation”—not unlike the kind of bump U.S. star Michelle Kwan could always count on back when Americans were podium finishers, wrote the Vancouver Sun’s Cam Cole. Chan, who went into Friday’s long program with a gaping, seven-point lead—after a world-record performance in the short—was able to clinch the championship, despite falling twice on Friday. “It’s easy to judge what we do as athletes,” Chan said, responding to critics. “It’s easy to judge when you’re sitting in front of a computer writing an article.”

Tiger Woods announces girlfriend in new ad for Nike

When True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård pulled Ellen Page’s suitcase through LAX last weekend, the chivalrous gesture was greeted by tabloids as proof the low-key acting duo was a couple. Speculation began during last year’s Stanley Cup finals when the pair—both born in hockey-mad countries: he, Sweden, she, Canada—took in a Kings game. They reportedly met on the set of the upcoming eco-thriller The East. At its recent Sundance festival premiere, the über-tall Swede towered a full head (and neck) over Page, who is just five foot one. Their private attitude is in sharp contrast to golfer Tiger Woods and skier Lindsey Vonn, who confirmed their couplehood this week with a series of cheesy pics prominently featuring their sponsors’ logos.

A flip-flop born of empathy

Ohio’s Rob Portman became the first Republican senator to break with his party and endorse gay marriage this week. Portman—reportedly one of Mitt Romney’s top choices for a running mate in 2012—revealed in an editorial that his son Will came out two years ago, which led him to “think of this issue from a new perspective.” Still, progressives were quick to lash out: “Does Portman only care about suffering when it occurs in his own family?” wrote The Atlantic’s Noah Berlatsky. Critiques aside, it became clearer than ever this week that demography bolsters Portman’s stand: support for gay marriage in the U.S. hit 58 per cent this week, up from just 32 per cent a decade ago, according to a ABC News-Washington Post poll.

Oh, for the love of gluten

Nutritionists, parents and tabloids rounded on Gwyneth Paltrow, whose new cookbook, It’s All Good, was inspired by an elimination diet that forbade her from eating dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, sugar, shellfish, alcohol, coffee—the list goes on. Paltrow, a self-styled lifestyle guru who runs the website Goop, enjoyed some success with her last cookbook, My Father’s Daughter. Critics aren’t letting her off easy this time around. “Tummies are often rumbling at Paltrow’s London home,” tsk-tsked US Weekly last week, noting that kids Apple, 9, and Moses, 7, follow her low-carb, gluten-free diet; nutritionists even sounded off, worrying she’s putting them at risk. “The book reads like the manifesto to some sort of creepy healthy-girl sorority,” wrote the New York Post, calling it a “recipe for ridicule.”

What the devil?

Does Mohamed Mehdi Ouazanni look like Barack Obama? Viewers of the hit TV miniseries The Bible sure thought so. That touched off a firestorm of controversy; Ouazzani, after all, was playing the role of Satan. The Prince of Darkness was immediately identified as the commander-in-chief’s doppelgänger by viewers, including Glenn Beck, who tweeted that Ouazanni “looks exactly like That Guy.” The miniseries’ producers, reality-show mogul Mark Burnett and his wife, Roma Downey, worked tirelessly to sell the film to conservative Christian groups, with support from pundits like Beck, who already thought Obama was Satan anyway.

Ballin’

Basketball, the game invented by James Naismith of Almonte, Ont., but long dominated by Americans, is slowly being invaded by Canadians. Toronto-born high schooler Andrew Wiggins is projected to be the next phenom, and this month’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament will feature more than two dozen Canadians. Top-ranked Gonzaga University’s team is led by star centre Kelly Olynyk of Kamloops, B.C., a potential first-round NBA pick, and point guard Kevin Pangos of Brampton, Ont. Michigan relies on the three-point shooting of freshman Nik Stauskas from Mississauga, Ont., and then there’s Brampton’s Anthony Bennett, the standout first-year forward who leads the resurgent UNLV Runnin’ Rebels and could be a top-five pick this summer. The days of Steve Nash, then with unheralded Santa Clara, typifying the Canadian basketball player as a plucky underdog are long past.

Rockin’ the bar mitzvah

Twelve-year-old Toronto kids dream really big. Michael Thornton, a city soccer star, announced last week that he is decamping for Europe, to try out for an unnamed professional club’s youth academy team, and his family is going with him. Then came the release of a video by the talented Jorel Hoffert, a Jewish-Asian kid about to reach the age of manhood. In a video invite to his bar mitzvah—deemed “truly mind-blowing” by the Washington Post—he sang “I’m half a Jew, I learned Hebrew,” danced to Gangnam Style, showed off his piano chops, and became a global viral sensation. If his parents choose to move him to Europe, it’ll be to escape the publicity.

Prison break

For a day, Benjamin Hudon-Barbeau and Danny Provençal were the real-life Breakout Kings. The convicted criminals pulled off a truly daring escape, flying out of their Quebec prison hanging by a rope from a hijacked helicopter. The men, who reportedly had the help of two others in planning the daylight escape, were recaptured the following day—but not before making headlines around the globe. A man calling himself Hudon-Barbeau even found time to call a radio station. He escaped, he told 98.5 FM, because “the way they’re treating me in there—it’s unreal.”

It’s coffee time

Charles, Prince of Wales, during a visit to the Middle East last week with his wife, Camilla, revealed that he is learning Arabic. The language “goes in one ear and out the other,” said the prince, who has been getting private lessons for the past six months, motivated in part by a desire to read the Quran in its original form.


 

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